Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terror strikes-yet again

Enough and perhaps more that what is necessary has already been said and seen on the 60 hour terror-hostage drama. To see Mumbai, the financial capital of our country being held to ransom was extremely saddening. The modus operandi of the terrorists is a rudewake up call to our lax security system.
A huge salute to our security forces for having done such a wonderful job in such a grave and delicate situation. The fact that the lives of hundreds of innocent people were at stake made their task all the more difficult. Now that the unfortunate drama has ended, it does raise a few compelling questions.
The ridiculous failure of our intelligence is of serious concern. While Mr. Ratan Tata, in an interview to CNN has said that there was some intelligence reports to suggest that the five star hotels could be terror targets, the Maharashtra Government has been adamant in saying there was none. The insensitive comments by the Maharahtra home minister RR Patil added salt to the wound and I am pretty sure he has positioned himself in the line of fire, what with elections due in October 2009. The lack of sensitivity is appalling, RR Patil's comments is just the beginning. More politicizing is certain to continue with each party trying to gain maximum political mileage. The BJP's ad campaign in Delhi, on Thursday is proof enough.
Politicians have begun the blame game and the Congress in a desperate attempt to salvage some pride, has sent Shivraj Patil to the slaughter house. If media reports are to be believed, Vilasrao Deshmukh is next in line, his visit to the Taj with his actor son Ritesh and film director Ram Gopal Verma also drawing a lot of flak. These political gimmicks are a must given that this is the election season. With Delhi all set to go, the Congress is desperate to stop the slide at least in the general elections which are due in May next year and is hoping a few 'tough' measures such as these would make things better.
To those reporters who were present at those places bringing us minute by minute updates, hats off. Sensational reporting is the order of the day. I would have personally liked the media to have been more responsible and restrained. A few incidents which put me off:
1. It was originally reported to be a 'gang war' due to a 'drug deal gone sour' and 'Nigerians were allegedly behind it all'.
2. The manner in which the reporter at the TV station wanted to extract all possible information about terrorists and the fire from a guy who was stuck inside the Taj was insensitive.(he was on phone with the news channel)
3. At one point, breaking news read 'First blasts after Obama's victory'. Can it get more ridiculous than this??
4. While I appreciate Narendra Modi's rather bold initiative to visit the Oberoi (though he could have waited for the situation to come under control), the fact that he called Hemant Karkare a hero was blown into a 'breaking news item' because of the fact that he had called him a 'villain' a few days ago. (At the same time it was immature and inopportune of Modi to have ridiculed the PM's speech to the Nation, though I would have to agree with him on this.)
5. Even as the operations were going on, there was a breaking news which read, 'Fresh gun shots heard in CST'. More caution and restraint should have been exercised. (Later, Rajdeep Sardesai apologized for providing wrong information.)
6.At one point of time, the media was giving live commentary on what was happening (especially at Nariman House when Operation Black Tornado had just started) akin to a cricket match little realizing that this could be potential input to the terrorist. In this age of 'Blackberry and Internet', to use a term coined by the media, it was unintelligent and almost laughable when they defended their stupidity by saying power was cut off to Nariman House.
7.Panelists for a discussion on the issue (on CNN-IBN) included, Mrs Vinod Khanna, Rahul Dholakia, Mahesh Butt, and two relatively unknown people one each from the Congress and the BJP. Common now, please get serious!!!

In the larger context of the issue, it is time we pull up our socks. It is not enough if our politicians make the right noises, often they just pale out as time passes. Given the number of attacks in our country the past few years, it almost seems that terrorists can strike at will. With public sentiment hugely against political gimmicks, in the best interest of our country and our people, our politicians should drop the religious rhetoric, come to a consensus and evolve a concrete strategy to counter and prevent any more such attacks from happening in the future. This may just be wishful thinking, but lets hope for the best.

PS. If you click on the links which take you to 'youtube', note the extremely strong religious flavour in the annotations and other videos-deeply worrying indeed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vaaranam Aayiram- Surya wasted


"Cooum Dump" screamed a review. Well, one has to appreciate my belief in Gautham even after reading such a review when I decided to spend the night before my mid-term exam on a 17 mile 'expedition' to the theatre which cost me 14$ (=650 Rs).
Gautham has tried to incorporate so many themes in the film that I would like to pen them down before I forget.
1. father-son relationship
2. love story(ies)
3. smoking and cancer
4. love failure
5. drug addiction
6. terrorism
7. police-mafia nexus
8. life of an army man
9. inter-caste love marriage
10. mass heroism (a little)
I am pretty sure, I have missed out on at least a few things.
The film starts of on a very similar note, just like Thavamai Thavamirunthu wherein the son relives the happy and sad moments of his life spent with his parents. The entire movie is in the flashback mode and the single winner in this mammoth effort is Surya and Surya alone. The work he has put in for this movie is tremendous and it is a pity that none of the technicians and the script itself did not back him.
Direction-Story-Dialogue-.... : Well, Gautham is better off giving sequels, prequels and variants of Kakha Kakha. A loosely strung together set of events with more intent on showing Surya in different costumes is what he manages this time around. Dialogues are childish and the generous dose of English (at the most annoying of times) makes it look very artificial. The scene at Surya's American visa interview is a classic example. I am not sure if anyone can actually relate to the happenings in the film. They are not only far fetched but look like a futile exercise in the end.
Music: I am not a big Harris Jeyaraj fan, but this has to rank amongst his worst thus far. The background score is so pathetic that it makes you wince sometimes. The songs are hummable, but they have to suit the situation first. What Harris has managed casts serious doubts on his ability to produce anything different as far as songs and their tunes go. "Mundhinam Parthen" is a song set in the 80's!!! Can you believe it???
Cinematography: The visuals are plain and I am sure that was the intention. San Fransisco has been captured beautifully, but apart from that nothing spectacular.
Art Direction: Some sets look very artificial, some are really good though. There again, I am not sure Rajeevan had too much work in the movie except for being the heroines dad!!
Costume and Make-up: The second place has to go to the costume designer. Surya looks handsome and smart in all costumes. The costumes for the flash back set in the 80's are gaudy and over the top, but the exaggeration makes it enjoyable to watch.
With Surya doing most of the hard work, the make-up team would not have faced a very difficult task. The only challenge would have been the old age Surya and Simran. The make up for Surya in his old age was good most of the times, though the wig was a huge let down. Simran looks so old that making her look young would have been a far greater challenge, one in which the team fails miserably.
I had great expectations for the movie but unfortunately it turned out to be a damp squib. I am still keeping my expectations high for Varnam Ayiram, directed by Ram Bala for Lollu Sabha- this must be one of the easiest scripts for the team.
PS a)The fact that Sameera Reddy is from CS dept. of REC Trichy and manages to go to UC Berkely is another comedy altogether!!!
b) Why did Surya work out so hard?? I hope its for his upcoming movie.
c) What was all the hype for??
d) If the theatre I went is anything to go by, Satyam Cinemas has to rank as amongst the best.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A PRINCEly farewell!!

Saurav Ganguly-this name could evoke a wide range of emotions. No one can probably script a better climax to his career than Ganguly has. Invariably, most players go out at a time when they are done and out or when they are not at the peak of their game. Call it what you want, VRS scheme or whatever, Ganguly could not have a chosen a more appropriate stage and place to hang up his boots. He is going out on a high, when people think that he needs to be there for a little longer. The VRS thing, a brain child of the rumour mongers, has shown the BCCI in very poor light, thanks to Ganguly.!!
His raise has been the typical rags-riches story, worthy of being made into a Bollywood potboiler. When he was picked for the England tour in 1996, his selection was attributed more to the “quota” thing for the east zone. With the technical shortcomings in his game, most pundits did not give him a slight chance even to play for India on a consistent basis, let alone captain it.
“On the off side there is God and then Ganguly”, coming from Sachin says it all. He is among the finest players of spin the game has seen, never afraid of using his feet against them. His opening partnerships with Sachin is something no cricket fan can afford forget. One of my favourite Ganguly knocks would certainly have to be his 183 against Sri Lanka at Taunton. It was a very special knock, the size of the ground notwithstanding. His century at Brisbane in the 2003 series is another of my favourites. It was a very critical knock not merely in the context of the match, but more importantly, it set the tone for the series. The rivalry he had with Steve Waugh, another doughty customer like himself will always find place in the history books of the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
He is a person of immense character, his come back into the side is proof enough of his mental make up. He has been more suave in his conduct and has often stymied his aggressive instinct to play responsible knocks in his second innings. His last test against Australia at Nagpur, was also very interesting-a very strokeful half century in the first innings and a golden duck in the second-so typical of the maverick he is. That Australia had just Jason Krejza as their lead spinner did not help them too much, as Ganguly effortlessly dismissed him with disdain. He is too good to be troubled by a rookie offspinner. Ironically, it was Krejza who consumed him in his final innings!! Also, that Ganguly led for the final winning moments of the match made it extremely special-a fitting farewell indeed.
He was arrogant and outspoken-the very un-Indian qualities which made him the most successful captain for India. His aggressive captaincy was hard to resist and realize not just on the field, but also off it. The shirt waving incident at Lord's, his counter attack on Steve Waugh are classic examples of Ganguly's aggressive nature. As a captain, his ability to spot talent was extraordinary. Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Pathan-all came off age under him. He had absolute belief in his boys and thats probably a reason why many youngsters did exceedingly well when he was at the helm. His single most important contribution to Indian cricket has to be the aggression he brought into the team.Ganguly is loved by so many for the same reason he is disliked by others. It is a cliche to say “Love him or hate him, you can't ignore him” but I think it suits Ganguly better than anybody else.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Anil Kumble-A tribute

I could never imagine an Indian team without Kumble, I still cannot. India have to do without their stock and strike bowler in tests from now on. I am sure most people wouldn't read too much into Mishra's almost sensational debut and for him to fit into Jumbo's shoes would not only take a long time, but also a large heart. Indians in general and Indian cricket in particular have never celebrated quiet heroes, Kumble and Laxman are classic examples. They have always been under the scanner and have invariably proved their critics wrong, time and again.
No cricket fan can forget that day in 2002, when he came back with a jaw injury to get the wicket of Brian Lara, clean bowled. His last test was no exception. He came onto bowl after having 11 stitches on his left index finger. His last wicket is testament to his commitment and work ethic. He took a brilliant catch, running backwards and in his joy (and fury) slammed the ball on the ground. He had shouted at Mishra for not putting in 100% only the previous delivery, so typical of Kumble.
Never have I seen Kumble sledging at batsmen, the ball did all the talking for him.
Towards the end of his career, many batsmen had analysed him really well and age also had taken its toll. The sliders were no longer as venomous as they used to be. (These deliveries got him most of his wickets and if I am right, he has the maximum number of leg before dismissals in Test cricket.) That could be a reason for his poor showing in the last one year. He has played 14 tests in the last year and has taken 53 wickets at 39 runs a piece, a remarkably high average.
I feel saddened by Kumble's exit, even more than Saurav's. Part of the reason is due to the fact that I would have liked Kumble to go out on a high. Saurav is also a great in his own right and the fighter he is, just like Kumble, he has been very lucky to go out on a high. (Hope he does well at Nagpur).
Kumble's biggest moment, apart from the 10 wicket haul at Delhi, would have to be his century against England at Oval. It was a typically dogged innings, with flashes of aggression through out. The shot which took him to his century was an inside edge, missed by the keeper, when Kumble gave the charge to Pieterson. Lady luck smiled on him and his wish to make a test century was at last fulfilled.
As a bowler, he is most remembered for his 10 wicket haul against Pakistan at the Kotla. Srinath trying desperately not to get a wicket and Akram being pouched at forward short leg by Laxman to give Kumble his 10 will forever be etched in our memories. His critics (cynics) though would always maintain that he owed at least a couple of those to Jayaprkash.
Kumble's retirement is a big challenge for the next captain and team management, for they will no longer have a bowler who could bowl over after over tirelessly. It is perhaps a bigger challenge than what Indian cricket faced after Kapil Dev's retirement for, by then Kumble had truly emerged as a match winner by then.(Ironically,Kapil Dev, another Indian great also had a very similar exit. He had 14 wickets from his last 7 test matches. )
The best parting gift his successor can give to Jumbo would be the Border-Gavaskar trophy itself and if possible with a win at Nagpur.
I just hope that his critics don't attribute his decison to call it quits to Mishra's rise. It is not only being grossly unfair, but also very premature.
My salute to the Jumbo!!!!